Mikki Lee Martin 10-15-21
“Clients must see your youth program as foundational, not simply an activity. Everything you do on the business end will either support or detract from this perception.”
1-Product Placement must reflect value.
Class has its own time slot, space and equipment, a separate class, at a separate time with a professional specifically educated trainer reflects value, a group crammed in the corner during another class with an adult environment (music, language, visuals) does not.
Class frequency will also affect perception of value and importance as an “activity” versus a foundational necessity for youth development and health. What and how you charge matters, punch cards and per class pricing reflect and endorse casual, inconsistent attendance.
Imagine bringing your kindergartner to the first day of school and encountering the vice principal teaching from a high school science lab, telling kids to be there at least 3 times a month, how would this change your perception of quality, importance and care? Conversely, encountering a primary specialist teacher moving around a colorful room, with tiny desks and chairs, piled with crayons and colored paper, welcoming students five days a week and playing children’s music would immediately confer a feeling of comfort for your child, and appropriateness and trust from the parent.
Additionally, Youth Programs reflect more value when they are represented by separate social media accounts specific to the achievements, development and needs of the youth served.
2-Long Term Plan and Business Sustainability
Youth Coaches must understand the business needs of the gym and operate the program to make a profit and be sustainable.
Plan to build and grow your team. You must create a well educated (specifically in youth fitness) training team. Choosing the right coaches is imperative. The coach must be motivated to work with youth, and interact well with children- both as observed by others and in their own self perception. In choosing coaches try not to fall prey to irrelevant authority, which in this case includes, well meaning volunteers who are or once were great athletes, once coached a youth sport team, or work in fitness with adults, or simply “has kids”. All Youth Coaches need a back up, for vacation, sickness, overflow, so that the program can be professionally and consistently running at all times.
Keep in mind -All major pediatric organizations say youth programs must (1) Be specifically designed for children and (2) Be taught by coaches specifically trained to work with children. Parents will assign perceived value to the level of professionalism reflected by the program overall as well as the youth coaching team, credentials and commitment to education.
3-The Parents/Guardians are your Clients
Your program must appeal to people outside of your current membership to grow.
Have a detailed progressive plan to educate new and existing clients on why all kids and teens need to exercise, what exercise is most important at what age, and why your program is the best solution. Be able to give an elevator speech on the program as well as enthusiastically discuss a range of positive outcomes and give examples. Make use of the volumes of peer reviewed research on youth and exercise, academic achievement, injury prevention and mental health.
Market outside of your gym, know what other local youth programs offer and charge. Get a feel for how and why there is, or is not perceived value in other youth programs.
(For more on this topic see Coach Jeff’s article Youth Fitness Business and The 3 P’s)
4-Goals of the program, outcomes
Define the goals of the program, and how to communicate them to any age child or teen and to parents in age appropriate ways.
Find the best methods to track and assess goal attainment and outcomes for each age group.
Make sure extrinsic reward or leveling systems, do not compete with actual competence.
No new clients will come to your program and stay- simply for the t shirts or medals.
They will come -and stay- when they see physical confidence and competence from motivated kids and teens who excel at any task.
Use or create quality progressive programming or curriculum with demonstrable outcomes.
5-Professionalism and Care
Research local regulations relating to working with children, in the U.S. familiarize yourself with the Safe Sport Act. Make sure your environment reflects the necessary awareness needed for those who have youth in their care, and the specific needs of each different age group.
More than anything parents want to know that you care about their child’s success. More importantly, you should only be in this business if you truly do. A professional in any realm is courteous, well spoken and educated in their area of practice, they should care about the subject enough to always be learning more, and bringing new ideas, concepts and creativity to the community for continued growth and evolution.
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